Ballooning began in France, and has been around for over 200 years. The first balloon was successfully launched on September 19, 1783, by the scientist Pilaire De Rozier. His balloon, called the Aerostat Réveillon, lasted only 15 minutes in flight but ushered in a new era in flight travel. Onboard for this historic flight were a sheep, a duck, and a rooster. The very first manned attempt at balloon flight came on November 21 of the same year, when brothers Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier flew their balloon for a period of 20 minutes in Paris.
Just two years later another landmark achievement took place when Jean Pierre Blanchard and John Jeffries, his American copilot, became the first balloonists to fly across the English Channel. That same year, de Rozier died while trying to duplicate the flight across the channel. On January 7, 1793, George Washington was in attendance to witness Jean Pierre Blanchard become the first person to fly a balloon in North America.
During much of the 19th century, the sport of hot air ballooning reached new heights as it became an increasingly safer mode for space exploration and travel. By August 1932, Swiss scientist Auguste Piccard became the first person to fly to the Stratosphere. His height of 52,498 feet set a new altitude record and was broken several times over the ensuing couple of years. By 1960, Captain Joe Kittinger set two world records when he successfully manned his balloon to a height of 102,000 feet, then jumped from the balloon with a parachute.
Much of the second half of the 20th century saw balloonists attempting to take the sport to a new level as people tried to cross the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. In 1978, the Double Eagle II became the first balloon to cross the Atlantic. The three-person flight took 137 hours to complete. Three years later the first balloon crossed the Pacific Ocean. The Double Eagle V, which had four passengers, took 84 hours to successfully travel from Japan to California. Both of these trips were done with helium/gas-filled balloons, and in 1987 Richard Branson and Per Lindstrand became the first to cross the Atlantic in a hot air balloon. Four years later the duo became the first to cross the Pacific in a hot air balloon as well. In 1999 Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones became the first balloonists to fly around the world, as they departed from Switzerland and landed in Africa, after almost 20 days of flying.
Hot air balloons are inflated at dawn, as it is easier to control the balloon during the cooler parts of the day.
With the invention of gas/helium-filled balloons, the hot air method became almost obsolete for a while, before it came back into popularity within the last half century. The actual balloon is made up of three main parts. The basket is where the passengers and pilot stand, the burner is the unit, which propels the heat up into the envelope, and the envelope is the fabric balloon, which holds the air.
Hot air balloons are used for a variety of reasons today. The most popular use is for commercial leisure flights. This is a flight in which members of the public take a ride in the balloon with the help of a pilot. These flights range from three to four passengers to as many as 20 passengers. Balloons have recently been used for corporate events as well as for promotion and advertising purposes. A growing trend is that of hot air balloon weddings, in which the couples can combine their love for each other with their love of flight. Another popular use for balloons is for sporting purposes, in which professionals from around the world compete against one another to see who can travel the furthest distance or reach the highest altitude.
Ballooning has come a long way since the early days of the sport over 200 years ago. In recent years, the popularity of the sport has increased tremendously and shows no signs of letting up.
Europe, 1600 to 1800, France, Hobbies
Ballooning began in France, and has been around for over 200 years. The first balloon was successfully launched on September 19, 1783, by the...
French balloonist who made the first hot air balloon flight across the English Channel with John Jeffries in 1785. He made the first balloon flight i
Lighter-than-air craft, consisting of a bag of gas that displaces a volume of air of greater mass than the total mass of the balloon and its...